Thursday, September 22, 2011

Is This Grit?

USA Today:

BENNINGTON, Vt.— For much of high school, Jaelyn Marshall, a 17-year-old from Harlem, was an indifferent student. She worked hard in her senior year, but it wasn't enough to make up for three years of bad grades.

"Every college I applied to said, 'Sorry, we don't want you,'" Marshall said. She's going to college this September after all, thanks to a partnership between KIPP charter schools and Southern Vermont College, a small four-year school here.

Under the program, called Pipelines Into Partnerships, the college's admissions office outsourced much of the responsibility for choosing 17 members of its incoming freshman class to KIPP, the largest charter chain in the country, as well as to a high school in Brooklyn and the Boys and Girls Club of Schenectady, N.Y.

It's a rare setup. Although colleges often have close relationships with high schools, very few cede control over admissions decisions. The partners believe their model — which focuses on unconventional measures of success, such as grit and academic improvement instead of just overall grades and scores — will give a chance at college to minority students who might otherwise be overlooked. ...

"We spend a lot of time and resources making sure our kids are supported in college," said Jane Martínez Dowling, executive director of KIPP Through College, a program that tracks KIPP students from eighth grade to their college graduation. "But to actually have an institution make the commitment to say, 'We are going to track your kids on campus,' provide advisories for them and academic supports, and almost customize their experience, was a win-win."

So... is being an indifferent student until your senior year is an example of grit? Or the opposite? Improvement, sure.

Also, aren't the grittier students the ones who do better in college? Shouldn't the less gritty be getting the extra support in school and the more gritty will do fine if you get them in the door?

I'm not saying helping these kids is a bad idea. I'm just saying the pop-theorizing around it is pretty much just handwaving and, frankly, marketing.


Max Bean said...

This doesn't sound like resilience or grit to me. It sounds like a kid getting bailed out and shielded from the consequences of her actions-- precisely the kind of thing that I believe discourages the development of grit:

pd said...

Agree with Max, with the caveat that the "grit"-displaying students around us suffer from the lack of school-based resources that students need to push past expectations. We've got 2300 kids in my school and a part time, fairly incompetent college entrance counselor. What's the ratio with college entrance counseling at Sidwell Friends? (Note: Love me the Quakers and worked for them for years. Just not sure where the Sidwell types factor into SF's Bayview and Tenderloin districts.)